5 Tips on Managing Asthma at Work
Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swell, producing extra mucus. This makes breathing difficult, and often triggers coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Part of managing asthma is often about managing your surroundings so that you can avoid triggers that you know of, just as you would with an allergy. But how do you do that when you’re at work and have very limited control over your surroundings?
Identify Your Triggers
The first thing to do is make sure that you know what your triggers are. You can’t avoid reactions if you don’t know what it is that triggers them. If you’re unsure as to how to go about this then you can always talk to your doctor about getting help. They can give you a list of common triggers, such as dust, smoke, cleaning products, mildew, animals etc.
You can also try keeping a log or a diary at work so that you can note down what seems to trigger any of your asthma symptoms, as well as when they happened and where you were when they happened. This way you can try and figure out any patterns and make a note of what alleviates your symptoms.
Maintain Good Housekeeping Practices at Work
Dust is one of the most common triggers for those with asthma so it’s important to make sure that your work station remains dust free. Often the backs of desks, tops of monitors etc. can get dusty or missed when cleaning, so it’s important to remember this and make sure your area is dust free to prevent a reaction. Dust can also sometimes gather in common areas such as kitchens or bathrooms. Though it might feel awkward it’s important to talk to your line manager if this is the case so that people can be made aware that it could potentially cause an asthma attack for you, and the issue can be addressed.
Make sure you always have your medication on you or near you in case of an emergency. It’s better to keep it in a pocket or a bag rather than put it in a desk draw where you might forget it when going for a meeting etc. You should also have a copy of your written asthma plan that you can keep with you or give to colleagues you work closely with, so that if you do have an emergency they will know what to do.
Talk to Your Employer
It’s important to be open with your employer about your asthma as people will only know how to help if you tell them. They are also far more likely to be understanding should you need to take time off work for doctor’s appointments or medical leave because of asthma induced illness if they are aware of your condition. It’s also important to find out who the first-aider in your group is so that they are aware of how they can help you should an emergency arrive.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Adjustments
If you know what is triggering your asthma attacks then you need to make sure you inform your line manager and ask for adjustments to be made. Cleaning materials, air fresheners and other such things can all be easily switched to brands that are less caustic. It’s a simple solution that could make a big difference to your health. Talking to someone in HR may provide a benefit as they can advise you on how best to go about asking for those adjustments, and who you would need to talk to in order to get them made.